Vunipola has been brought straight into England’s training squad for the match against Scotland at Twickenham on Saturday after making light of a three-month lay-off to help the champions to a bonus-point win at Kingston Park.
While Eddie Jones might have expected to see a puffing Billy on his return three weeks ahead of schedule, Vunipola’s smooth return to the tracks yesterday offers up the possibility he could start at No8 on Saturday.
It would be a calculated risk but Jones will be tempted given Vunipola’s potential influence. England have missed his punch. “I talked to Eddie this week and I said to him that if I come through the game and I feel OK then we can talk.
“I’d love to be back in the mix but I don’t want to disrespect anyone and say I’m going to walk straight back in. If he wants me to play I’m more than happy to,” said Vunipola.
Billy Vunipola played 72 minutes in Saracens' 35-27 win over Newcastle
Eddie Jones will be delighted to have Vunipola back and available to face Scotland
“After today I feel good. I know that training’s tough and he has always said that his training will get you prepared for a game. If he wants me to go, I’ll train and I’ll be fine.
“Today I didn’t feel as if I was playing a pre-season game, I just felt normally tired. I’m not sure why they took me off but that’s the coaches’ decision. I’m just looking forward to my fish and chips after this. I’ve waited a long time.”
The way Vunipola broke two tackles on his first carry yesterday served as a reminder of what England have been short of, although it was his work at close quarters which was most effective yesterday.
The way he stripped the ball off Newcastle centre Juan-Pablo Socino in one tackle was reminiscent off a parent taking a rattle off a toddler. “He’s incredibly strong and he certainly had an impact on the game,” said Newcastle director of rugby Dean Richards, himself a celebrated England No8.
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“On his day he is the best No8 in the world – I don’t think there is anyone in world rugby who can touch him – but he has to be fit.”
He certainly looks it, putting his advanced healing powers from the knee ligament injury he suffered against Argentina down to fun and faith rather than the ‘deep freeze’ treatment he was prescribed.
“I don’t really believe in that stuff. I think I went in the cryotherapy chamber once, maybe twice because I had to. I just tried to steer clear. Every time they told me to go in, I took all my kit off, stood around for a bit and pretended like I had been in, changed then went home,” he said.
Billy Vunipola has been brought straight into England's training squad for the Calcutta Cup
“I had three months where I had the time of my life. I had some good fun, met a lot of people and socialised a lot. Now I just have to tone it down a bit.”
Elder brother Mako also made a significant play for a starting role against Scotland yesterday. He was a physical handful throughout and even produced a deft chip to set up the position for the first of Saracens’ five tries from Michael Rhodes. Alex Lozowski, who touched down twice, contributed 20 points.
While Newcastle contributed richly in the second half with three tries the Falcons went away empty handed.
Blob Tommy Bowe has been called up into the Ireland squad after Ulster wing Andrew Trimble was ruled out of the last two games of the Six Nations with a hand injury.